SUNRISE, Fla. – Roy Radke had just been drafted by the Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon but he was already well acquainted with several players currently in the system.
“I’m good friends with Ryan Hartman, Anthony Louis, Vinny Hinostroza,” said Radke, who hails from Geneva, about an hour west of Chicago. “I grew up with all of those guys.”
The number of NHL prospects who either grew up near Chicago or who played in Chicago-area leagues is increasing, and the Blackhawks added another to their group when they drafted Radke with their sixth-round (164th overall) selection on Saturday. Mark Kelley, the Blackhawks’ senior director of amateur scouting, said it’s not necessarily the team’s plan to take kids from the area. It’s just those local kids have filled needs the past few years.
“I think what it’s really a product of us so many good players are coming from Chicago,” Kelley said.
And the Blackhawks aren’t the only team taking notice of Chicago-area kids. The Arizona Coyotes drafted Christian Fischer of Wayne, also about an hour from Chicago, with the 32nd overall pick.
“The youth program’s taken off there tremendously, and a lot is [due to] the Blackhawks,” Fischer said. “The kids go to the games, they see the whole deal there and they want to play. They have four travel teams there, a lot of guys coming in from Chicago. I think the Hawks have a lot to do with that.”
Radke is new to the Blackhawks organization but he’s already among friends, thanks to Chicago’s burgeoning hockey scene.
“Since Chicago’s been so good recently, a lot of young kids have been trying to play hockey in the area. That’s why it’s expanding so much,” Radke said. “I’ve always loved the Blackhawks, so it’s a dream come true.”
The Blackhawks got a little bit of everything from everywhere at Day 2 of the NHL Draft.
“This year we have a Slovakian, a Finnish kid, a Swedish kid, a Chicago kid, a Buffalo kid, a Boston kid,” Kelley said. “There’s seven of them, so it’s a United Nations.”
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All locations aside, the Blackhawks were happy with their draft, which didn’t begin until Saturday morning when they selected Ontario native Graham Knott with the 54th overall (second-round) pick.
Knott had 25 goals and 18 assists in 59 games with the Niagara IceDogs (OHL) in 2014-15. The Blackhawks took four forwards and three defensemen. They also acquired something else that they’ve been lacking: size. Five of their picks are 6-foot-2 or taller.
“Any time you get size it’s nice,” Kelley said. “We’re always looking for players we think are smart and can skate. I think this year those guys are big, also.”
|Rounds||Player||Position||Country||Amateur League||Amateur Team|
|Round 2, 54th overall pick||Graham Knott||LW||Canada||OHL||Niagara|
|Round 3, 91st overall pick||Dennis Gilbert||D||United States||USHL||Chicago|
|Round 4, 121st overall pick||Ryan Shea||D||United States||HIGH-MA||Boston College H.S.|
|Round 5, 151st overall pick||Radovan Bondra||RW||Slovakia||SLOVAKIA||Kosice|
|Round 6, 164th overall pick||Roy Radke||RW||United States||OHL||Barrie|
|Round 6, 181st overall pick||Joni Tuulola||D||Finland||FINLAND||HPK|
|Round 7, 211th overall pick||John Dahlstrom||RW||Sweden||SWEDEN-JR.||Frolunda Jr.|